More public schools across New South Wales will benefit from solar and battery energy storage systems and join a Virtual Power Plant trial as part of the NSW government’s Smart Energy Schools Pilot project.
Eighteen more schools have been added to the project, bringing the total to 79. The project will test the solar and storage systems, demand response controls in air condition and the operation of an onsite VPP, with a view to deploying these systems across the state in future.
Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell said the project was the largest school-based renewable energy project of its type in the country.
“We know the solar systems installed as part of first stage of the project have already generated more than 460 megawatt hours of clean renewable energy – that’s enough energy to keep the lights on at the Sydney Cricket Ground and the Melbourne Cricket Ground for a whole a year,” Mitchell said.
“These solar systems have also helped to reduce the schools’ electricity costs by almost $100,000 and cut carbon emissions from electricity supply by more than 50 percent.”
Solar and battery storage systems are now being installed in the schools that are part of the second stage of the project, with the additional 18 schools joining that program. The VPP trial is anticipated to begin by mid-2023.
“Already, around 1,500 NSW public schools have some form of existing solar and we want to maximise the role our schools play in delivering a renewable energy solution,” Mitchell said. “This process will allow us to use the insights from the renewable energy sector to achieve this.”
That 1500 NSW public schools have some form of solar is a significant feat, amounting to more than half of the state’s 2200 total.
Amid the trials, the government has undertaken an Expression of Interest (EOI) seeking proposals to finance, deliver and operate renewable energy systems across the NSW public school system.
Proposals from energy market specialists will be accepted until 7 March 2023. Those proposals will then be assessed and shortlisted for participation in a binding Request for Proposal stage, subject to government approval.
The 18 additional schools joining the Stage 2 trial come from across the state, including inner-city, rural and coastal communities.
All Australian states and territories have some form of school solar program in place. In 2022, Queensland reached a major milestone with 200,000 solar panels installed at more than 900 schools across the state, as part of its $168 million Advancing Clean Energy Schools program.
Victoria has a similar project in the works, called the Greener Government School Buildings Program. That project, which provides upfront funding to install solar power systems, currently has 232 schools taking part.